Hello there WESTAF community of staff and trustees:
Lots of wonderful checking-in below on the dizzying array of projects we’ve been up to at WESTAF these past two weeks. First off, wishing “farewell!” and “good luck!” to Lani Morris and Tess Emslie. They have represented WESTAF so well with their remarkable contributions and we are so grateful to them! We’re excited to welcome new executive coordinator Cameron Green (ELC 2021) to WESTAF. He starts next Monday, but you’ll get to meet him a little sooner! We have a busy week coming up, with our thrice-yearly all-team meeting, our committee meetings, and the spring board meeting. So let’s jump right in, shall we?
OCTOBER BOARD MEETING (CG)
While the May board meeting is now upon us, we’ve also been thinking about the October 27-28 board of trustees meeting in Denver. As things continue to improve on the vaccination and new cases front, we’ve been planning an in-person board meeting, but we can be ready for anything. Our Denver annual board meeting is also a great opportunity to bring together trustees and staffers. As we get a little closer, we’ll be diving into what that looks like, and we’ll be learning more about your preferences, as well. Stay tuned — this is a developing story.
WESTAF TOURWEST 2021 PANEL REVIEW (LM)
TourWest provides subsidies to arts and community organizations within the 13-state WESTAF region for the presentation of touring performers and literary artists. On Friday May 14, Lani Morris, Anika Kwinana, and David Holland facilitated two three-hour panels, in which ten panelists discussed in detail 29 of the 247 applications they adjudicated for TourWest 2021. Panelists are now reviewing and updating their scores post-panel before a staff review that will result in a set of recommendations made to the Executive Committee for final approval. This year, to be responsive to the needs of the field, WESTAF offered a special amendment of our guidelines to enable organizations to have virtual performances and educational offerings funded, to support in-person touring programs by in-state artists who reside over 50 miles from the venue, and to utilize full project expenses rather than artist fees alone in the determination of funding. We have also increased the budget for TourWest standard awards, and plan to fund at a minimum 90% of any eligible request amount. Panels also had the opportunity to provide WESTAF with feedback on application and panel processes to inform our ongoing efforts to deepen equitable practices in TourWest and all of our grantmaking efforts.
WESTAF AND SOUTH ARTS EXPLORE PARTNERSHIP ON THE EMERGING LEADERS OF COLOR PROGRAM (AK/DH)
Following WESTAF’s highly successful partnership with South Arts to launch their inaugural 2021 Emerging Leaders of Color Program in support of a cohort of arts and culture leaders in that region, Anika Kwinana and David Holland have engaged in robust discussions with South Arts to: 1) establish a second cohort for the region in early 2022; and, 2) co-design additional sessions that will intentionally emphasize regional realities in the work. The process will include pre- and post- assessments, and other evaluative elements, to further inform the development of WESTAF’s national model for the Emerging Leaders of Color Program.
LEADERS OF COLOR NETWORK 3RD SKILLSHARE ONLINE ENGAGEMENT (AK)
On Thursday, April 29, WESTAF hosted its third Leaders of Color Skillshare. These 90-minute sessions provide a peer-to-peer learning environment on practical topics that are critical to the ongoing professional development and wellness of the network. Nathalie Sanchez (ELC18/CA) shared her innovative approaches to creating and executing a virtual internship program. Tara Gumapac (ELC18/HI) shared her creative approaches with elementary school students to incorporate clay-making and engagement with the land while teaching in the virtual space. Leaders of Color Participants included members from our most recent 2021 WESTAF cohort and the South Arts cohort. Our next skillshare will focus on movement and mental health.
WESTAF PARTICIPATES IN CALIFORNIANS FOR THE ARTS PANEL “SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER: BENDING TOWARD JUSTICE IN THE CREATIVE INDUSTRIES” (AK)
On Tuesday, April 27, Anika Kwinana participated in a panel discussion as a part of Californians for the Arts’ Virtual Convening. Anika shared the panel with Quanice Floyd from the Arts Administrators of Color Network and Ted Russell of the Kenneth Rainin Foundation. The conversation focused on the potential impact of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and anti-racist leadership and funding in the sector; ways to support cooperative governance; and, systems-change and existing power imbalances. The panelists also emphasized the importance of ancestors and wellness in their work. More information is available here.
INITIAL PLANS FOR WESTAF AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN GRANT PROGRAMS SUBMITTED TO THE ARTS ENDOWMENT AND ARE BEING DISCUSSED WITH STATE ARTS AGENCIES (AK/DH)
WESTAF has submitted a project budget and a one-page program description to the National Endowment for the Arts outlining our initial plans for administering American Rescue Plan funds in our 13-region and the Northern Mariana Islands. These plans, under Anika’s leadership, deepen our commitment to equity and social justice and to equitable and liberatory grantmaking practices. David is currently discussing the one-pager and WESTAF’s plans more broadly with state arts agency executive directors and having conversations with each state about their emerging plans for administering ARP funding in their states.
PERFORMING ARTS DISCOVERY 2.0 UNDERWAY (DH)
Tim Wilson from the Western Arts Alliance (WAA), Joy Young from South Arts, and Anika Kwinana and David Holland from WESTAF will join the RAO Regional Touring Program Working Group on Monday May 17 to discuss provisional plans for PAD; seek input on a few program design elements; and extend an invitation to serve on the Steering Committee for the project. RAO leaders are currently considering proposals to contribute to the cost-share for the project and structure administrative fees in a manner that maximizes investments in the program itself and therefore artists. To recap, the Arts Endowment awarded $200,000 to WESTAF to manage a new direction of the Performing Arts Discovery program this year. We will be working with WAA, who will be the delivery partner, and in collaboration with our sister RAOs, to deliver the program. WESTAF is working with the Partnerships team at the National Endowment for the Arts to approach private foundations to seek co-investment in this initiative, including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. In addition to nominating individuals for a national jury/panel; communicating the opportunity with our networks; and recommending artists and engaging our international networks, WESTAF will produce the Arts Endowment interim and final reporting; lead ongoing liaison with the Endowment and other regionals; participate in meetings with other potential funders; and engage with WAA directly in the planning and management of the program throughout.
RARF V 2.0 CONCEPT PAPER COLLABORATION WITH RAOS UNDERWAY (CG)
We’ve been working with our sister RAOs to develop the concept, budget and criteria around a second Regional Arts Resilience Fund for funding from the Mellon Foundation. This new program would center around the BIPOC-focused organizations that were funded in the first round, with unrestricted funding coupled with capacity-building consultation. This concept paper should get submitted to Mellon in the next week or so.
CNMI CARES RELIEF FUND FOR ARTISTS AND ORGANIZATIONS CLOSES (DH)
With the April 30 rolling deadline, WESTAF closed the CNMI CARES Relief Fund for Artists and Organizations. We will disburse all remaining funds with this grant cycle, and all final awards being made are to artists in the Northern Mariana Islands. Moana Palelei HoChing, Anika Kwinana, and David Holland will adjudicate the 26 applications received in this cycle and offer funding recommendations to the leadership of the CNMI Arts Council. The National Endowment for the Arts again asked WESTAF to administer relief funds on behalf of CNMI and we are currently building out our plans for this new program. Having built up awareness about these relief funding opportunities over the life of the CNMI CARES program in collaboration with the CNMI Arts Council, we look forward to serving more artists, culture bearers, and arts and cultural organizations in the Northern Mariana Islands through the new ARP program while deepening our commitment to decolonization.
WESTAF INVITED TO PARTICIPATE IN UPCOMING STATE, NATIONAL, AND INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCES (DH)
David has been invited to serve as a panelist for the International Economic Development Council Annual Conference session on “Creative Economy: Economic Development for a Sustainable Future” in October that he is organizing with Susan Soroko at Arlington Economic Development. Margaret Hunt, director of Colorado Creative Industries and a former IEDC member, will serve on the panel as well. David has also been asked to develop a session on supporting the creative industries in rural communities and to moderate a panel titled “Chamber Champions: Best Practices for SmART Partnerships” for the 2021 Colorado Creative Industries Summit in September. He has also been invited to serve as a panelist for a session on “Making the Case for Support in 2021” by the League of American Orchestras for their 76th Annual Conference “Embracing a Changed World” in June.
COORDINATED CROSS-SECTOR ADVOCACY EFFORT ADVANCES IN SUPPORT OF LEGISLATION THAT WOULD CREATE A $65 MILLION CREATIVE REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM IN COLORADO (DH)
BBMK Public Affairs, Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, and WESTAF collaborated in developing the initial phases of a statewide campaign in support of SB21-252, a bill that would create the Community Revitalization Grant Program, a new $65 million creative real estate development program in Colorado. A letter supporting the initiative submitted to Colorado General Assembly members in advance of a Colorado Senate Local Government Committee hearing has garnered 93 signatories across the state, including five real estate development firms, two chambers of commerce, and technology, insurance, architecture, and healthcare firms, key segments advocated by WESTAF (as part of our effort to expand engagement in arts advocacy by the business community and other constituencies). History Colorado, the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations have also submitted their own letters and sent out action alerts to their constituents in support of this legislation.
WEB-BASED FEDERAL ADVOCACY TOOLKIT REVAMP COMPLETE (MH/DH)
Moana has completed reformulating the WESTAF Federal Advocacy Toolkit into an iSite for use by the WAAN network and eventually their constituencies. This more dynamic resource will live alongside the standard PDF document as a comprehensive but action oriented set of information to support federal arts advocacy across our region.
EXPLORATION OF SMU DATA ARTS AND CVSUITE COLLABORATION (CG)
Christina, David, Kelly, David and Christian have met twice with counterparts at SMU DataArts to explore the possibility of collaboration on a creative economy project that could benefit our field. We discussed a range of ideas, but details are still in early stages. In principle, we are open to the possibility of a collaboration, which could build value. More to come on this.
FUNDRAISING UPDATE (CG)
We should learn next week whether the proposal we submitted to the MJ Murdock Charitable Trust has been funded. We are involved in three asks to the Mellon Foundation — one from us for PAA through Mellon’s Monument Project. We received a “being considered” message on 5/6, which is better than “passed.” We have a RARF v. 2.0 re-granting concept paper to Mellon in development with the RAOs, and a preliminary ask through/from the arts endowment to supplement the Performing Arts Discovery program (more info about that in David’s PAD report above). All RAOs were contacted and interviewed by the Bridgespan Group on behalf of an anonymous donor interested in equitable re-granting. Tamara, Teniqua, Christian and David have a meeting coming up with the Satterberg Foundation. Pending LOIs with the Sloan and American Express Foundations.
FINANCE & ADMINISTRATION (AH)
WESTAF’s financial coding structure has been updated to include the FY22 NEA Partnership award as well as the American Rescue Plan (ARP), Folk Arts and Accessibility. Amy compiled the new NEA Partnership budget beginning in FY22 as well as the ARP project budget and forwarded to the grants team to submit to the NEA. Lauren and Becca are proceeding with the hiring process for a full-time finance coordinator and will begin interviews this coming week. Jess is currently covering the most time-sensitive finance work and also learning her new role replacing Janae – thanks to her for her flexibility! Department leaders are considering how to handle paper records with our impending move out of the office in the fall. We will be using a scanning and shredding company to help ensure records are properly saved and discarded. Amy is working with Anika to ensure the current financial system can provide the SRI team with the reporting they need to fully manage their grants and projects. With the multiple simultaneous federal awards, the SRI department has the most complex coding structure. If the current structure doesn’t work, additional modules will be considered. Amy is considering upgrading our Asana system which is the project and task management software used by the staff, and its new features can help with workload, workflows and approval processes that are requested by many staff.
STRATEGIC PLANNING (NS)
The business cohort has been taking a small break as the new year always brings a bit more work for staff. At the end of April, we reconvened and hashed out a bit more about what direction we need to take— We have decided to focus our efforts on learning more about OKRs and find a way to fully implement a standardized process across departments in WESTAF so that our goals align with the strategic plan. We have a tight deadline for solidifying the process to ensure we can get started on OKRs for FY22. The policy cohort will be meeting on May 18 to plan the phases of creating a Regional Partner Handbook for State Art Agencies and other advocacy groups in the region. The cohort also plans to discuss the division of responsibilities for this and other projects moving forward.
GENERAL BUSINESS (CV)
Adam and the business team have started monthly meetings to determine tech priorities for all the SaaS products, with a monthly recap for all program managers to increase transparency and communication. Christina is beginning to formulate a plan to create the business department’s FY22 budget, with an aim to simplify the budget template and make the monthly projection process easier for program managers.
The CaFE team has been busy in the last two weeks setting up new calls, onboarding new customers, training the new customer experience coordinators (for artist support) and helping fill in while Ken took a mini vacation. Justine continues to work on a communication plan for the release of the new admin UI, which has been delayed until the end of July because of internal and external development and testing constraints. We’ve finished interviews for the operations coordinator and hope to hire in the coming days.
CVS released the latest CVList on Friday, May 7. We also updated the CVSuite sales site to help streamline our sales conversations and highlight our key offerings. In the last week, CVS finalized the sale of two new Covid-19 reports and welcomed the return of a former client, United Partnership of Raleigh and Wake County. Our client, Cultural Planning Group, reached out requesting a conversation around creative economy development, gentrification and equity, and the team will be discussing a response and next steps in our next weekly meeting. Zing is working on a ticket to introduce password reset functionality, and Blair drafted the 2021.1 data update tickets and statement of work for next month.
GO SMART (JG)
GO Smart signed a new client this week, the Ruth and Harold Chenven Foundation in NYC. They are a small family foundation that awards project funding to approximately six individual artists from a pool of over 300 applicants annually. Operational work continues on the technology development backlog as Jessica converts many lists into the singular streamlined template Natalie V. created. Training continues with Anika and we have begun conversations around building and logistics for new American Rescue Plan funds, the updated TourWest discretionary application, and additional CNMI funds.
PUBLIC ART ARCHIVE (LG)
PAA provided a second demo for Valley Metro to demonstrate the use of PAA’s CMS to manage the transportation agency’s art collection. PAA continues to try to convert four clients, including Valley Metro, Culver City, Los Alamos County, NM, and Alameda County Arts Commission into CMS sales. The WESTAF Women’s Suffrage Mural Committee held its second meeting and narrowed applicants to shortlisted artists. The Committee will hold interviews for each finalist and select the awardee at the end of the month.
ZAPP has recently hit an exciting milestone in the goal to move all our clients to EFTs for receiving their monthly revenue. We have officially started sending out more EFT payments than checks. For our April revenue “check” run, 64% of payments were sent electronically. This shift is important as we move to fully remote work and continue to try and reduce the time it takes to do time-intensive tasks. In other news, Tess Emslie, our newest member of the team (she was formerly a part-time customer experience coordinator) submitted her resignation, and her last day is May 26. We will be opening the job and searching for her replacement in the next day or two.